by Deona Hooper, MSW
When we think of Social Workers, we often think in a singular dimension. It is often assumed that a person who enters into the field of social work do so as a last resort or looking for a way to breeze through college. When in fact, it is just the opposite. Many who enter the field have talents and gifts that would allow them to excel in other areas. However, their backgrounds or experiences forced them to develop an overwhelming sense of compassion for vulnerable populations which increased their desire to help and serve others. Here are few examples of Celebrities who were Social Workers before they became famous.
Reality TV Show “Save My Son” star Dr. Steven Perry received his Masters in Social Work from the University of Pennsylvania. In the late 90’s, Dr. Perry founded a program in Connecticut called ConCAP which was a collegiate awareness program, and the program was hugely successful. As a result, the program sent 100% of its first generation graduates from low income homes to four year colleges. Since then, Dr. Perry has carved a name for himself as an educator, therapist, and motivational speaker. He is an accomplished author and columnist for Essence Magazine.
Award Winning Writer and Poet, Alice Walker worked as a Social Worker, teacher, and lecturer during the Civil Rights Movement after graduating from Sarah Lawrence College in New York. Before gaining notoriety for her literary works, she moved to Mississippi to fight the racial injustices during the Civil Rights Movement. Ms. Walker is most famous for writing The Color Purple which was later adopted for the silver screen starring Oprah Winfrey, Whoopi Goldburg and Danny Glover, and she was also awarded a Pulitzer Prize for writing the fictional novel.
Award winning actor Samuel L. Jackson, who is most known for his roles in Pulp Fiction, Jungle Fever, and a Time to Kill, worked as Social Worker for two years in Los Angeles. Mr. Jackson graduated from Morehouse University in Atlanta, Georgia in 1969. The now acclaimed actor during his youth was active in the black power movement where he protested the absence of any blacks on the Board of Trustees at his historically black all male college. Mr. Jackson has appeared in over 100 films and has been named the highest grossing actor of all time with an estimated gross of 7.2 Billion dollars.
John Amos who is most famous for playing James on “Good Times” studied Social Work at Colorado State University after receiving an athletic scholarship to play football. Mr. Amos majored in social work to prepare for his work within the black community. He went on to become a Social Worker at the New York’s Vera Institute of Justice before catching the acting bug, and his break-out role was as a weather man on the Mary Tyler-Moore show in 1970. Mr. Amos also won an Emmy Award for his portrayal of Kunta Kinte in the historic mini-series “Roots”.
Although these next two did not actually work as social workers, they do deserve an honorable mention for obtaining degrees in Social Work, and they are Money Guru Suze Orman and long time beau of Oprah Winfrey, Stedman Graham.